Alabama’s Environmental Studies Center teaches more than nature

Alabama’s Environmental Studies Center teaches more than nature
Mobile's natural sciences education facility provides unique learning experiences to school children and the community. (contributed)

For the staff at Alabama’s Environmental Studies Center (ESC), one mission stands above all: to help others love nature as much as they do.

“I have been here for 26 years,” said Susan Clement, a biologist at ESC. “I still love it as much as the first day I started.”

The ESC is a natural sciences education facility owned and operated by the Mobile County Public School System. The center affords teachers, students and the general public an opportunity to experience first-hand natural resources found on more than 400 acres of pine and bay forests, swamps, freshwater streams, a carnivorous plant bog and 20-acre lake. Indoor facilities include an auditorium, library, reptile exhibits, saltwater aquarium and preserved animal specimens native to Alabama.

“We teach about the plants and animals that are in the environment,” Clement said.

Mobile’s Environmental Studies Center provides unique learning experiences from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The ESC operates a wildlife rehabilitation program, treating more than 600 animals each year.

“Our goal is to release them back into the wild,” Clement said. “On occasion they can’t be released, and a lot of these animals get to stay here and become a part of our educational program.”

Clement said the ESC relies on donations and volunteers to operate.

“We have a very small staff here at the ESC and we have a lot of exhibits, a lot of land, gardens that we can’t always maintain,” Clement said. “About twice a year — sometimes even more, Alabama Power will come out and do a major, outdoor workday where they are raking, trimming, repairing cages, cleaning cages, expansions on exhibits. It’s an amazing amount of work that these people can do in just one day.”

Jack Shaw, a journeyman for Alabama Power and a volunteer with the Alabama Power Service Organization, says he loves volunteering at the ESC.

“I volunteer because I love the fact that Alabama Power gives back,” Shaw said. “There’s a lot of animals and wildlife we don’t really get a chance to see, and to come out here and volunteer really shows that we can give back.”

Alabama Power Instrument and Controls Specialist Webb Bryant agrees.

“We love coming out here and doing the work,” Bryant said. “It’s rewarding for us and with the group that we send out here, we get a lot of work accomplished in a short period of time.”

The ESC is open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is $3 per person. For more information, visit mcpsesc.com.

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